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Diet Sodas the Healthy Way to Go? Think Again

04-21-2017

We hear lots of bad things about soda.  The sugar content is through the roof. So much so that some cities have slapped huge taxes on the sugary beverages to discourage folks from buying them.  Too much sugar leads to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other health problems. 

That might leave people who drink diet sodas feeling pretty good about their choice. But as it turns out, those artificially sweetened beverages may also be really bad for us, just in different ways.

According to newly released research, diet sodas can increase your risk for brain issues, like stroke and dementia. The study was published Thursday in the American Heart Association's journal, Stroke.

Researchers in Massachusetts looked at more than 4,000 people.

The ones who drank one diet soda a day were three times more likely to have a stroke and also three times more likely to have dementia.  

The ones who drank fewer diet sodas -- between one and six a week -- had double the risk of stroke and dementia. 

"We have little data on the health effects of diet drinks and this is problematic because diet drinks are popular amongst the general population," Matthew Pase, a senior research fellow in the department of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine and lead author of the new study, told CNN.

Why You Don't Need to Panic -- Yet

However, consumers don't need to panic quite yet. That's because right now there isn't an overwhelming amount of evidence against diet drinks. 

"More research is needed to study the health effects of diet drinks so that consumers can make informed choices concerning their health," said Pase.

Predictably, the people who make diet sodas are pushing back on the conclusions reached from the study. 

The American Beverage Association issued a statement saying, "The FDA, World Health Organization, European Food Safety Authority and others have extensively reviewed low-calorie sweeteners and have all reached the same conclusion: They are safe for consumption."

The statement further read, "According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), many risk factors can increase an individual's likelihood of developing stroke and dementia, including age, hypertension, diabetes and genetics. NIH does not mention zero calorie sweeteners as a risk factor." 

The Dark Side of Artificial Sweeteners

Neurologist David Perlmutter, author of Brain Maker, said artificial sweeteners, particularly the kinds found in diet drinks, disrupt the body's microbiome.  This means the fragile mix of good bacteria and bad bacteria in our gut is thrown out of whack by artificial sweeteners, according to Dr. Perlmutter.  

Recent research shows that the vast majority of our immune system is located in the gut and is directly impacted by the health of our microbiome.
  
Therefore, Perlmutter told CBN News a healthy gut equates to overall good health, adding that a healthy gut involves avoiding artificial sweeteners, among other things. 

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